Wednesday, May 2, 2012

                 Does this little girl look like she might be part rabbit? What's with those ears?

Lambs here, there and everywhere

 Robin's due date was rapidly approaching and she was looking more and more like a pompom with skinny stick legs and we were all wondering when she might pop. I was lollygagging in bed enjoying a rare morning that didn't involve packing lunches, making breakfasts and rushing kids to school when Lisa came in and breathlessly announced, sotto voce, "There's a head and two hoofs sticking out of Robin". I stumbled downstairs, called Jack our sheep mentor and just as breathlessly as Lisa explained the situation to him and then ran outside.


Sure enough, there at Robin's nether regions was an adorable head, or at least a part of a head being a very sweet nose and mouth and the tips of two tiny hoofs and, quite disconcertingly, a tongue hanging askew out of one side of the mouth. Thomas and Lisa and I stood around anxiously watching Robin as she pawed the ground, lay down on her side, threw her head back and bellowed trying numerous times to push her baby out to no avail. Of course we were all apprehensive as Robin had appeared to go prolapse a few weeks earlier when we had her on her bum in order to shear her. But everything had returned to normal for the last few weeks of her pregnancy and now we were standing around pondering whether the baby lamb was still getting its oxygen through the umbilical cord or not when suddenly the nose twitched and the tongue wiggled around... this creature was truly in two worlds.

Robin is bellowing in a contraction that isn't helping

We decided that perhaps Robin would prefer a bit of privacy, what mother wouldn't at that most miraculous and scary of moments, so we retreated to go about our various chores...mine being to run inside and call Peter who had sold us the sheep last spring. He offered to gulp down his coffee and come over to help us out and he also gave me a helpful word of advice. He understood my concerns about the prolapse as we ran the risk of losing both babies and mom. But he also explained how sometimes the elbows sort of hitch up inside and make it difficult for the lamb to come out and that grabbing hold of the hooves and tugging will straighten the front legs and allow for the necessary room for the rest of the lamb to emerge. Just as I hung up the phone Jack appeared and I immediately felt relieved. We went out to find Robin and baby in the same predicament...neither here nor there, the tongue still sticking out to the side and despite another attempt or two by Robin there was no progress. So this little lamb had been lodged in this precarious position for at least two hours and perhaps longer still.

Jack said that it was high time to help her out and suddenly I found myself creeping up behind Robin as she stood there. I grabbed hold of one of the little hoofs and gave a firm but gentle tug and, sure enough, a flood of warm fluid gushed out and I could feel something shifting as the entire length of the front leg was now in my grasp so I grabbed the other hoof and next thing I knew, I was doing exactly what I had seen on the youtube videos that I had been watching! Catching a lamb is a pretty amazing thing and I found myself floating on the mystery and wonder of it all, grinning from ear to ear. Meanwhile, a greatly relieved Robin turned around to see her beautiful and quite large girl lamb flopping on the ground by her feet and bleeting in a loud and insistent way now that her tongue was no longer trapped between her jaws.

Robin immediately went to work licking her off and cleaning her up. Sonja the lamb, so named by Thomas after a reggae singer he admires, was testing her wobbly ludicrously long wooly legs within 15 minutes, collapsing into a heap when either the front or back end would suddenly buckle under her. We were all standing around in a sort of a sweet adrenaline high when Peter showed up carrying a very professional looking kit of tools, none of which now seemed necessary. I was surrounded by a surfeit of expertise with Jack and Peter there but what had kicked in was my own maternal instinct that drew on a kinship forged between two species so entirely different yet linked by a shared history of co-evolution that stretches back 10,000 years.

                                                                 Ketchup and Mustard

Sonja was still blinking wide eyed at this new world, continually testing her legs in the new world that she had entered less than twenty minutes earlier when Robin started to paw the ground again. Addie came out in her pajamas to watch the second birth. The water sac appeared within seconds and the second baby lamb seemed to slide out with little effort on Robin's part and appeared covered in a thick yellowish slime. But this time Robin seemed much less attentive. She had had enough of licking off slimy babies and she was looking slightly dazed and confused. Sonja teetered around on her newfound legs still partly red from the trauma of her tricky birth and this new tiny creature lay on the ground bright yellow like a glob of mustard. It had been a rough morning for her and she was hungry and thirsty. The second lamb, which Addie named Petunia, was so much smaller than the first and within minutes she was shivering in the cold breeze. We toweled her dry and Jack snuggled the two babies together so that they could share their body heat and positioned them in the sunlight in a nest of fresh hay. Thomas and Lisa quickly fashioned a third wall on the sheep shelter to create more protection from the cold wind for the little ones. Jack made sure that both girls had enjoyed a good long drink at Robin's udder before we headed in to the house to warm up and enjoy a big batch of banana pancakes.

So now we have two sets of twins and they are first cousins as the two mom's Robin and Flicker are bottle-fed sisters. Flicker's boys, Yoda and Loon were born April 7th and now Robin's girls, Sonja and Petunia joined us on this side of the watery realm on April 29th. Here's hoping they all thrive and enjoy their days and nights at Watershed Farm. I have been shaking my fists at the bald eagle who has been circling low over the sheep for the last week or so. Even Robin has raised her wooly head to track the aerial spirals that spell trouble for her girls. Our fingers are crossed that all will go well. And if anyone knows of a sheepdog who is looking for work, let us know. In fact, a donkey would be a welcome guardian for our wooly family so you can also give us a shout if you know of a donkey who is needing a good home.

                                                   Day Two and Robin is laughing now!